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    lomax61
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This story is set in contemporary Britain during the pandemic. As such, references are made to UK government regulations and guidelines, although some of the timelines may vary for artistic purposes. This story is my usual flavour of gay MM romance and is not a political statement in any way, simply an observation of a budding romance during extraordinary times.

Famous Last - 18. Chapter 18

A night in.

Daylight had gone to bed by the time Spencer called Marshall from the road leading to his South Kensington apartment. Two minutes out of the Tube station and his ears had turned blue from the cold. As instructed, he had been home to pack a bag, given Tiger some pampering and plenty of food, and then made his way to Marshall’s place. On the Tube he had tried calling Bev a couple of times, but on each occasion the call went straight to her voice message. For a change, Marshall was the one person in his life answering his calls.

Hello you,” came the warm voice in his ear, much needed on that sub-zero night.

“I’m about five minutes away.”

Perfect. I’m just warming a couple of mince pies and mulling wine. Should help to warm your cockles on this frozen night before the main course. Are you okay with that?

“Can you hear my mind working overtime trying to think of a suitably salacious retort to having my cockles warmed by you. But honestly, all I can really think about right now is getting some life back in my cold, numb hands and feet. And that sounds like just the job. I’ll see you in five.”

“See you in five. Looking forward to hearing all about your day.”

Spencer didn’t want to overthink what it meant when the concierge buzzed him in before he had even placed a hand on the door. Or the fact he greeted him in the overheated reception by name, Mr Wyrrell, with a genuinely friendly smile, told him he did not need to check his bag this time and that Mr Highlander was expecting him. He had only been there once, the day before, but already everything felt familiar. When he stepped out of the lift on the fifth, the door to Marshall’s apartment stood slightly ajar. Spencer pushed his way in, closed the door behind him, and called out a welcome.

“In the kitchen, Spence,” came Marshall’s voice, as a waft of something amazing assaulted his nose and made his mouth water. “I’m reducing the red wine jus. Come in, put your bag in the bedroom, kick your shoes off, and then come and join me.”

When Spencer entered the bedroom to drop his bag and remove his coat and shoes, he noticed a couple of things. Since the morning, the bed had been remade immaculately, all the throw cushions and pillows now arranged meticulously back in place. On the corner of the bed, Marshall had left a pack of cat treats for Spencer’s princess, a small gesture that made him smile. And on the far bedside cabinet, now in full bold view, sat a pack of condoms and a tube of lubricant. Spencer’s grin grew wider in the confidence that later on in the evening, they would be enjoying each other’s bodies.

In the kitchen, pungent garlic, onion and other indistinguishable but equally delicious odours filled the air, along with the Christmas music blasting from a standalone speaker. Installed at the stove, Marshall—wearing a pair of navy chinos, a light blue polo shirt and a white kitchen apron—swayed his hips along to Slade’s ancient Christmas classic, Merry Xmas Everybody. Without making a sound, Spencer crept up behind him and pressed his body into the back of Marshall’s, his arms snaking around his waist, matching his dance movements. Even with the strong smells of cooking in the air, Marshall’s skin smelled of a mix of lavender and pine. With Spencer’s cheek resting against Marshall’s upper back, a deep chuckle rumbled through him.

“I don’t care if the world is falling to pieces,” sighed Spencer. “I love this time of year.”

“You’re a big old softie at heart, aren’t you?” chuckled Marshall, pivoting his body until his face tipped down to smile at Spencer, his arms slipping around his waist.

“What if I am?”

“Absolutely fine by me,” said Marshall, kissing him softly, but quickly pulling away. “Oh, my goodness, you really are cold, aren’t you? It’s like kissing an icicle.”

“But I’m feeling better by the second.”

They hugged for a few moments longer, before Marshall pushed him gently away.

“Go on, before I burn something. There’s a mince pie and a glass mug of mulled wine on the table. Can you top me up from the saucepan?”

Spencer grinned when he saw the mess Marshall was making, the table top covered with dirty saucepans and used bowls. Spencer’s father cooked well, but his mother always complained about him using every bowl, kitchen utensil, and saucepan in the kitchen whenever he cooked anything. Marshall appeared to follow the same approach. Instead of being idle, he poured Marshall some more wine and placed the glass next to him, before taking his own to the kitchen sink to begin cleaning up.

“You don’t have to do that. You’re my guest.”

“I want to be useful. Anyway, if I don’t clear some space on the table, there will be nowhere to eat.”

“You know there’s a dishwasher to your left. Just rinse the pans and put then inside. I’ll do a full load later, once we’ve eaten.”

They worked around each other seamlessly, Marshall busying himself at the cooker and Spencer clearing up after him as well as laying the table for their dinner. While working, he took a sip of the wine, but found the mix a little too potent, and, when Marshall wasn’t looking, poured the contents into the sink.

“How did the day go, Marsh? With the charity?”

“Went really well, but the job was unbelievably tiring. Manual labour is not something my body is used to or likes. Thank goodness I have that huge bath here, which I filled with spa salts and hot water to try to get out all the kinks in my muscles.”

“Sounds like you deserved it. I’m proud of you, Marsh.”

“And how about you? You got the job,” said Marshall, his back still to Spencer. The final words had been a statement, not a question.

“Did Ed phone you?” asked Spencer, frozen to the spot.

“No, but I can tell by the spring in your step. And the fact that he’d be an idiot not to employ you while he has the chance. So it went well?”

“I think so. We had a good chat and he ended up offering me a position starting in the New Year. Once I’ve received the offer, I’ll need to talk to Muriel.”

“That should be fun.”

“You know, funnily enough, I’m looking forward to it. Next year’s going to interesting, what with moving out of my place and starting a new job. And I can’t help thinking the latter is, in a large part, thanks to you.”

“Hey, don’t sell yourself short. You’re a talent, Spence, and you’re finally getting what you deserve.”

On the tip of Spencer’s tongue was to ask whether that included Marshall, but he decided not to tempt fate.

“Hey, I haven’t asked you yet. How are things going for the client Christmas event? I can’t believe it’s a week from tomorrow. Is everything okay at your end?”

“You haven’t spoken to your friend, Beverley?”

“She’s not been answering my calls. But, in her defence, she’s been buried in work recently.”

“I imagine she’s been busy with the event. Probably spending time going through the final details with the events company, Virtually Integrated Parties. From what I understand, though, it all sound pretty impressive. VIP will be operating all the technical parts from their own premises. But the control centre will be in your office where Beverley’s team will be coordinating everything. That way, if clients need to phone in with questions or problems, they just use your standard office numbers. From our end, everything’s arranged. Our studio’s providing the live link-up for the formal interview. Muriel’s publicist provided us with the sanctioned set of questions at the weekend. I’ll use those as a guideline, as always, and then just run with my gut instinct.”

“Seems you know more about what’s happening than me or the rest of our staff. We’ve been kept in the dark.”

“That’s because they want to make sure everything works perfectly—all the technical parts—before letting staff know and running the risk of them giving things away. At the moment, I only know about the interview I’m giving. But Darcy tells me email invitations with links have already been sent out to clients, because she’s listed herself as one. She said clients and staff alike are requested to dial in from seven-thirty, thirty minutes before the whole show begins. Of course, you know Darcy. She immediately clicked on the hyperlink, never does what she’s told, but it just took her to a Blackmore Magazine Group Client Party holding page, telling her she had arrived too early. And that’s pretty much all I know. Where are you going to be?”

“I was hoping to be with you in the studio. But I suppose that will be up to Muriel.”

“Well, I already told her I wanted you with me. As this was your brainchild. And I think Darcy is going to insist, too, so I don’t think there will be any problem. I just wondered if you wanted to support Bev.”

“Honestly, I think I’d only be in the way,” said Spencer, the thought of talking to Muriel unsettling his stomach momentarily. He decided to change tack. “Goodness, that smells delicious.”

“I’m almost finished. How do you take your steak?”

“Medium, please.”

“Me, too. Good choice.”

“How did you know I wasn’t a vegetarian?”

“Let me see. The extra pepperoni pizza, and the beef and onion pies sort of gave it away. I told you, I pay attention. But you’re right, I should have asked first.”

“No it’s fine. It’s not often I have people cook for me. I’d have eaten anything you put in front of me.”

“What I mean is we don’t really know a lot about each other, do we?”

“But isn’t that a wonderful part of all this, the fact that we’re getting to know each other from scratch?”

Marshall laughed, as he scooped the steaks onto plates.

“You’re right. I really am enjoying this, Spence. Go and take a seat.”

And once again, as he did what he was told, Spencer’s heart did a little happy dance at hearing his nickname. Once Marshall had finished putting fried onions, mushrooms, sautéed potatoes and grilled tomatoes onto their plates, he brought them to the table.

“In the three small bowls, there’s Dijon mustard, creamy horseradish, and some of my mother’s homemade English mustard, which should come with a health warning, because it’s like eating a mix of raw chillis, wasabi and molten lava. What do you want to drink, beer or wine?” he asked, putting a plate down in front of Spencer.

“What are you having?” asked Spencer.

“I was going to have a glass of red.”

“Can I join you?”

“Of course.”

They sat eating in companionable silence, Spencer tucking into the excellent meal. Marshall had uncorked a French claret, the exact name of which had already escaped Spencer, but he agreed with him that the wine complemented the meal perfectly. Eventually, Marshall began talking about his limited cooking skills, appearing to enjoy explaining how he had learnt them by carefully spying on his grandmother as he sat at her kitchen table. Ten minutes into the meal, the intercom phone on Marshall’s kitchen wall rang. For a second he appeared annoyed, in two minds whether to answer the call, but then shook his head and went to the video display.

“Good evening, Finn.”

“Good evening Mr Highlander,” came the voice from the device. “There’s a Ms Corbett here to see you. Said you know what it’s about. I told her you had a guest. Shall I send her up?”

“No, It’s okay, Finn. She’s just dropping something off. Get her to take a seat and I’ll come right down.”

“Righty-ho, sir.”

Marshall replaced the phone and then began removing his apron.

“It’s Lindy, one of our television assistants. She’s dropping off some important papers for me to sign. I’ll only be a second. Help yourself to more vegetables, if you want.”

With Marshall gone, Spencer got up from the table and cleared the rest of the used pans from the stove, bringing the pot of vegetables over to the table. He had tucked back into his meal, when Marshall returned, carry a large manilla envelope, which he tossed onto the countertop. Spencer wanted to ask what the call was about, but thought he’d wait for Marshall to offer an explanation.

But Marshall took his seat and returned to his food without a word.

“Do you want to heat that up?” asked Spencer.

“No, it’s still warm,” said Marshall, with a chuckle. “When I’m on overseas, working to tight deadlines, we tend to live on lukewarm food. That’s what the papers are about, actually. Some legal stuff I needed to sign and get out the way for my final overseas assignment of the year. Those are my copies in the envelope.”

Oh yes?” asked Spencer, as Marshall forked a chuck of steak into his mouth, and then sipped his wine. “Where to this time?”

“So the Monday after the client event, a small team of us are flying to Eastern Europe to cover the presidential inauguration in Kryszytonia. Chairman Tobias Karimov is being sworn in as the new president, and he’s not only a good friend of mine—I’ve interviewed him twice on my programme—but something of an inspiration. His reforms are going to transform their country. Because of the state of things globally, few governments are sending dignitaries to the ceremony, but I’ve been invited to attend personally to witness and record the historic moment for posterity with others from the press corps.”

“Sounds like a great honour.”

“It is, it really is. And probably my last overseas assignment for many months. My other news is that I’m pushing back on my workload. If the recent run in with the press has taught me anything, it’s that I need to put more time aside for myself. The latest series of Say What You Mean doesn’t air until March, and another series is not scheduled at the moment. However, Darcy’s been working her magic behind the scenes, and the television network has commissioned a new programme with me as the host and voiceover, shooting in the third quarter, where we examine landmark legal cases in Britain and around the world, and how they changed the course of history. They want to call the show, Marshall’s Law, and it means I’ll be spending a lot more time here at home.”

Spencer really liked hearing Marshall would be around more, but simply smiled down at the table. They continued eating until both had finished their meals. Both sat back in their seats, grinning at each other.

“What are you doing for Christmas?” asked Spencer, taking a sip of the wine.

“I’d usually stay with mother, but it looks as though she’s going to remain in the Bahamas. Can’t say I blame her. As for me, I don’t know. I’ll probably invite myself to Darcy’s—”

“Come with me,” blurted Spencer. “To my family’s place in Bournemouth. I’m heading down on Christmas Eve. I mean, only if you want to. But I’d love to have you there. The whole family would.”

“They know about me?” asked Marshall, more humoured than curious.

“No, but I know they’d be fine. I mean, only if you want. I don’t mean to pressure you into—”

“Hey, slow down a bit. I would be honoured to join you, Spence. I want to meet the lovely people who brought such a sweet guy into the world.”

“Seriously? You’d really come?”

“Would we have separate bedrooms?”

“No. I mean, I could check to see if Garrett’s going to be there. But I’ve got my own decent sized bedroom down there, with a double bed. Well, it’s not as huge as yours, but it’s comfortable and, at a squeeze, big enough for the two of us.”

“This is sounding better by the minute.”

“And my father promised to cook the turkey this year, in case you’re worried about food-poisoning.”

Marshall laugh out loud.

“Okay. Well, I really need to meet this poor, put-upon mother of yours whose culinary skills you’re constantly disparaging. And I would be happy if you introduced me as your new boyfriend.”

“Really?” asked Spencer, his eyes wide.

“Yeah, really,” answered Marshall, his fond gaze dropping to Spencer’s mouth, before his smile slipped away and he met Spencer’s gaze. “Just one thing.”

Spencer fully expected him to beg off the idea.

“I’m volunteering again on Christmas Eve. Only in the afternoon, from three until six. Me and some other so-called celebrities are helping to work a soup kitchen around the back of King’s Cross Station, to feed the homeless. Would it be okay if we leave after that?”

“Depends,” said Spencer hoping he didn’t sound as relived as he felt. “Can I come and help? In the background, of course?”

“Of course you can. The more, the merrier.”

“In which case, you’ve got a deal. I’m not sure what kind of rail service they’ll be running Christmas week, but I’m sure there’ll be a fast train from Waterloo after six, which will get us in at around eight-thirty. I can’t wait to see my parent’s faces.”

“Let’s see. Instead of relying on trains, I might give my beamer sports a run, if you don’t have any objections. There’s a municipal car park not far from the kitchens.”

Spencer couldn’t help grinning. Christmas was going to be the best ever. Although he didn’t know much about cars, he could only imagine the look on Garrett’s face when he not only turned up with Marshall, but in a BMW sports car.

“Are you tired?” asked Marshall, breaking the silence.

“No,” said Spencer through the grin he could not keep from his face. “Not in the slightest. But I’m definitely ready for bed. Can I grab a quick shower first?”

Marshall’s fond gaze and smile transformed into something different altogether. Instantly, he pushed his chair away from the table and stood up.

“Tell you what. You shower while I tidy up in here. Then I’ll meeting you in the bedroom in ten minutes where your dessert will be waiting. Deal?”

“Sounds interesting,” said Spencer, getting up from the table. “And what exactly is for dessert? Strawberry cheesecake ice cream?”

Spencer’s eyes opened wide when the Marshall Highlander pushed a hand into his waistband, down inside the front of his own trousers, and squeezed.

“Me, Spence. Dessert is me.”

Thank you for reading.

Please post any comments, suggestions or remarks, or simply leave a reaction.

If you find any edits or typos or other errors, please PM me (using the envelope option at the top of the screen) on Lomax61, rather than posting a comment on the chapter.

Copyright © 2020 lomax61; All Rights Reserved.
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That you very much for reading.

Any reactions, comments or observations are very much appreciated.

Let me know what would you like to see happen? Or what you foresee happening next?

 

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Beautiful chapter. But Khandastovia? Really? Is that somewhere in the vicinity of Rothenia?........ 😁

 

Hey, I love Rothenia with its magical characters who have been tested and an exceptional King. The politics can be crazy. Marshall would love it and its mystery and the media people.

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